Category: Getting personal

Writer’s Block,Voting ‘Remain’ and the Grim Media

It’s been over two months since I last posted on here, which seems crazy. There’ve been a few factors behind that, but I haven’t been in a cave wasting the days away – that said, it’s been a strange couple of months.

For one thing I’ve been struggling with writer’s block, or a form of it. As my day job is to write a whole lot of articles about video games that may seem contradictory, but ultimately that’s work with a formula. I’ve been doing it for a number of years and have my own methods, and the crux is that even when writing is a dreadful chore I can do it in that context. I follow the formula and, like so many people, simply get on with my job.

Part of that ‘block’ has been linked to current events in the wider world, and my feelings about them. I’ve been a heavy reader and follower of the media my whole adult life, and I’ve never known times as grim as these. There’s a lot of anger and outright hatred swimming around, and logical voices are often being shouted down or ignored. The media, as is its job, reports on this poisonous atmosphere, but – combining that obligation with the need to drive circulation and clicks – magnifies it and makes that the prevailing topic. I’ve written about this in the past, how ‘negativity sells’. It’s worked well for Donald Trump, with the US media effectively doing his campaigning for him through relentless exposure. It’s a shallow and dangerous version of politics, and one that’s a threat to any democracy’s health.

Of course, we’ve had our own political campaigns driven by hatred, fear and lies here in the UK. The EU referendum has been a dreadful demonstration of all the worst aspects of modern day political campaigning and media coverage. I now actively dodge televised debates and much of the media coverage for that reason alone. I’ve researched the facts for myself, which often bear little resemblance to the coverage by the press.

Personally, I’m voting In as part of the Remain campaign. It’s an odd vote, which is probably at the core of the issues the Remain team has had, as it’s a vote for an economic and political bloc that is flawed and in need of major change. In my view it’s still better than the alternative, though, with social and economic factors at the core of the matter. I for one also don’t ignore the many, many independent experts in various fields that say Remain is the better choice; it’s the willingness of many to ignore experts – often unfairly branded with a negative connotation of ‘elite’ – that has truly upset me during the whole process.

The problem is that it’s easy to highlight the flaws of the EU, and the fact is that the Brexit campaign has tapped into a lot of anger around the country to do so. There’s an interesting gulf between generations, too, with a lot of polling showing a majority of people aged 35 and under backing remain, and a majority of 50+ backing Brexit. That’s democracy, but it’s a troubling concept that if Brexit wins, we could see figures showing that those that will deal with the consequences of Brexit the least will have made it happen.

Of course, the Brexit campaign leaders (and Remain, in its way) will have to look themselves in the mirror when it’s all finished, which I hope they’ll find difficult. In peddling lies, half-truths and inciting racism and xenophobia, Brexit in particular has shown the worst of Britain.

The killing of Jo Cox was a horrible moment, too. While not directly attributable to either campaign, as such, it was a dreadful coda to weeks of negativity, baiting and dog whistle politics. When learning about her life and career it was plainly obvious that she was a woman of powerful principles and a desire to do good and help those in less fortunate positions. She was the antithesis to the lazy stereotype so many give to politicians. She was a good politician and person – it’s possible to be both. I hope that her legacy will be that people don’t revert to cynicism against all of politics, and that politicians themselves will strive to follow her example in their work.

Ultimately, I’m going to try and stay optimistic that Remain will win, that a silent majority will swing a narrow result.

I’ll wrap up this rambling post with an update on what I’m doing when I’m not working. Well, not much last week (during E3 when I had 18-hour days), but I do have some interesting projects in the works. For one thing I’m still mustering the courage to share some creative writing excerpts, and in actual progress I’ve started teaching myself Python (programming code). I’m treating it as a stepping stone to more advanced languages, with the long term goal of taking that knowledge into some small-time game development. If I can combine writing and game making as creative endeavours and make a living, I’ll consider my life goals largely met.

I’m not entirely happy with where I am in life, but I do reflect on the fact I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a job with flexibility and friends as employers, and the means to look to the future. As I sit at a PC, learning coding from a new Kindle e-reader propped up next to the monitor, and reflect on the things I have and the family that’s a key part of my life, I consider the fact that I’m lucky. I’m getting close to the point where I can realistically start to consider buying a house, too, and these are all luxuries that a lot of people don’t have.

So I’ll keep plugging away and hoping for the best, trying to walk the walk – optimism over negativity, kindness over hatred. We can all do that in our own ways.

Until next time,

Tom

 

The Strange Nature of Dreams

I’m starting, slowly and surely, to get to the point where I’m going to get cracking (properly, for realsies this time) on what will likely be my first novel. I’m planning for it to be a fun process, though at the same time I know it’ll be a tough thing to do. Getting it done around work and general life will be far from easy, but that’s like anything else that’s worth doing.

Anyway, some key segments, which may make their way onto this blog as excerpts, will be centred around dreams. I mean actual dreams we have in our sleep, not aspirations and goals. I think they’re going to be hard to represent and portray, too, as they’re often unintelligible, confusing and immediately forgettable. Well, they are for me.

I often struggle to relate to how dreams are portrayed in movies and popular culture. In many cases they’re largely clear aside from some basic camera filters, or they involve wackiness and bright colours; of course, they’re often narrated in full and with no blank spots. Yet after I dream I often struggle to remember the bulk of what happened – what lingers is the general emotion they triggered, and that’s where the impact is. Again, that’s just my personal experience.

Sometimes the majority of the dream is a fuzzy mess in my memory with the exception of a stand-out moment, normally the point at which I wake up. Sometimes they profoundly affect me, too. Early this week I had a pretty horrendous dream, a nightmare, and like the worst of those it blended reality with a semi-unlikely event. It wasn’t fantastical or crazy, but it had a horrible denouement that rattled me, and I’m only now shaking it off. Part of this is likely my over-sensitivity, but also the fact that in tenuously clinging to reality my bad dreams can strike too close to home.

I want to make dreams an important part of my project, though doing so in a non-derivative way will likely be one of the biggest challenges. I feel like it’s something that, if portrayed well, can be a powerful narrative device. That’s because, in my life, dreams are important and influential on my mood and, sometimes, my broader thinking.

In any case, I’ll see how the idea evolves in the broader scope of the novel. I’m also hoping that the next time I’m awoken by a dream at 4am, it’ll leave a more positive impression.

Escaping the Screens

It’s been a little longer than I expected since my last post, but it’s not been for a lack of desire to write on here. The last week has been particularly busy with work and other mandatory but dull non-work stuff, so this humble little blog had to wait.

After an intense week glued to my PC monitor or laptop, I did value an opportunity over the past weekend to ditch screens and get to the great outdoors. This included a trip into the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, a lovely place in a rather nice part of the city – its altitude also means there are gorgeous views to soak in. I doubt it’ll ever be practical for me to live in that area, but it’s certainly my favourite part of Edinburgh.

I do think getting away from screens is important though, even if it means stubbornly leaving the phone in the pocket when an email notification comes in. Sometimes it can become ‘normal’ to spend hours and hours per day glued to these harshly lighted panels, but it’s not natural. Our computers, phones and TVs are integral to our day to day existence, and they can be hugely valuable parts of our lives, but it does little harm to take a break from them on occasion.

I do have a happy middle-ground, I think, and that’s my old Kindle e-reader. It’s a ‘screen’, yes, but e-ink is amazing (albeit old) tech, and as my model is one of the ancient ones with a keypad it has no backlight; that’s fine, it makes me find some decent light. I think it’s a pity e-readers have fallen away as the market has trended towards cheaper standard tablets – e-ink is lovely technology, mainly because it’s as easy on the eyes as printed text. When I’m out and about and want a lighter bag, or when I’m trying a new novel that I’m unsure of buying in physical form, I often turn to my Kindle. I’ll never support Kindle Unlimited, however, but that’s maybe a topic for another day.

In any case, work and life have been busy, but some novel excerpts and creative writing should be popping up (or starting to) this month.

Until the next one,

TW

 

Time to Start Writing Again

It may seem odd that, as someone who writes for a living, I have an urge to restart an old blog anew and write even more. Yet when the day job is writing about one topic, over and over again, there’s a lack of expression and freedom. In writing not only about video games, but Nintendo at that, I get caught in a loop where instinct rules and I simply churn through days with nary a creative thought.

It’s dangerous, in any walk of life, to get in a cycle. Whether it’s listening to the same music over and over, watching old films rather than trying something new, reading the same books – doing this to excess shuts off the brain. Well, that’s the case with me, and I need to break the cycle.

The long term goal is to continue making a living from writing, but as a creator rather than critic. I’m not sure that’s a realistic prospect, but I’ll give it a try. So this site will be the home for all writing that isn’t about Nintendo. I may write about current affairs, or about myself, and I’ll certainly be uploading works in progress that are scripts, short stories and an attempt at a first novel. If I don’t do it now, when will I?

I intend for my regular writing to be a fresh start in other respects, too. The only way I’ll stop myself going crazy is by chasing what I really want to achieve; that’s not much, either. I don’t seek fame or fortune, but just to look at my work and how I’ve spent my time and to feel they’ve contributed something relatively meaningful to the world. Whether I do that as a writer or in a future career move, or perhaps both, that’s all I want.

So this is the first post on Literary Gamer. The design of the site will likely change as I mess about with alternative themes, but what’ll be constant is my commitment to it.

Until the next one,

TW